The American Nurses Association will present the Year of Ethics award today (July 23) to a U.S. Navy nurse who refused to force feed prison detainees at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba. The award presentation will take place during the ANA’s Membership Assembly meeting in Washington, D.C.
According to an article in the Miami Herald, the New England-based nurse, a lieutenant, was at one point considered for court martial, for refusing to tube-feed a Syrian captive, Abu Wa’el Dhiab. In a May Military Times article, retired Navy Capt. Al Shimkus, who commanded the medical facility for Joint Task Force Guantanamo from 2002 to 2003, said force-feeding detainees “constitutes ill treatment and the continued practice at Guantanamo should not be allowed to occur,” although the Department of Defense maintains the practice of enteral feedings is legal, appropriate and “medically sound.”
The ANA showed support for the nurse, an 18-year veteran, as he faced dismissal from the Navy. In May, the Navy opted not to pursue further action against the nurse, which ANA President Pamela Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, said “recognizes the registered nurse’s first duty is to the patient, regardless of the setting of care or the employment situation,” according to a news release.
According to the Miami Herald article, while the Navy has chosen to take no action against the nurse, the DOD notified the naval officer that it planned “to revoke his security clearance, and possibly place him once again in jeopardy of being discharged” in light of the episode. An earlier discharge could put the nurse’s 20-year benefits at risk.
The Year of Ethics award reflects the ANA’s year-long focus on ethics in nursing, in recognition of the impact ethical practice has on patient safety and the quality of care. This year, the association also released a revised code of ethics for nurses.
Since the nurse has chosen not to be publicly identified, his attorney Ronald Meister will accept the award on his behalf.
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